Wildlife crossing over the 101 to save mountain lions getting closer to reality

AGOURA HILLS, Calif. (CNS) -- The fundraising campaign to create a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills has reached the $18 million mark, putting the groundbreaking within sight, organizers announced this week.

The total raised by the National Wildlife Federation's #SaveLACougars campaign includes a recent $1.4 million gift from a private donor.


"The incredible support of people from around the world has allowed us to advance this project from a visionary idea to an impending reality. This past fall, we released new design visualizations, Caltrans will have the blueprints for the crossing completed this summer, and if fundraising remains strong, we will break ground in November,'' said Beth Pratt, California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation and leader of the campaign.

MORE: Take a look at wildlife on Utah's 'Critter Bridge'
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Southern California officials have announced plans for a highway overpass for wildlife, saying that they aim to break ground in 2021. ABC7 has obtained some preview footage of what it might look like from Utah's equivalent "Critter Bridge."


Officials say the project at Liberty Canyon would likely be the world's largest such crossing, and they hope it could serve as a model for urban wildlife conservation across the globe.

The crossing is intended to save the local population of mountain lions from extinction, and is being funded largely from private donations. The $1.4 million gift came from an anonymous donor from La Canada Flintridge, who has given $2 million to the project to date.

Organizers say her interest in the lives of wild animals goes back to 1970 when she and her late husband first went to East Africa. At home, their backyard acreage has hosted most kinds of suburban wildlife: squirrels, rabbits, bobcats, coyotes, skunks, common and rare birds, an occasional possum and raccoon, and one stag.

Officials with the campaign say that in addition to saving the mountain lions from likely extinction, the crossing will also reconnect a long-fragmented ecosystem for all wildlife in an area recognized as part of one of only 36 biodiversity hotspots worldwide.

And as a major green infrastructure project for the state of California, construction for the crossing will generate jobs in the region and economic benefits into the future.

The core partners in the public-private partnership include Caltrans, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the National Wildlife Federation.
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